For an architect, working on residential projects can be extremely rewarding…and extremely difficult. Even though the number of stakeholders on the client side is pretty low compared to commercial work (usually just a husband and wife), decisions aren’t necessarily any easier. After all, your project is likely the most important thing they have going on in their daily lives, not to mention one of their largest investments. So, how can you manage their expectations and minimize one or two headaches along the way? Here are a few tools that can help.
1. A “Why Hire an Architect” Handout
The AIA website and your local AIA chapter’s website have this info in various forms and capturing it on a brief printed piece that you can hand to first-time clients is very useful, even if they have already made the decision to hire you. It is important for a client to understand why they hired you, what you can do, or even why they hired you instead of a non-licensed alternative from the beginning of the project.
2. A Process Handout
You know your jobs inside and out but clients might not. From experience, I can also say that it is terribly difficult to explain working process to a client when you’re in the middle of it. A simple process sheet that explains the basic steps along the way is a great tool to hand to a new client. If they already understand how everything will go – no problem; if they have never built a new house before – they now have a basic understanding of when they will have to approve design decisions and materials, when the project can be bid, etc. as it relates to their overall project timeline. It doesn’t have to be too detailed, just enough info for them to get the order of operations.
3. A Phone/Email List
I know it seems a bit cliche, but as the architect you set a clear tone as the project lead by gathering this info and giving it to a client. You also have a chance to save yourself some time by letting the client know who they can call for various types of questions. Are you doing the CA? Are there several people in your office that can answer project specific questions? Will the client have to call utility companies towards the end of the project? Is there an HOA involved? Delivering all of these points of contact in one location might save you several returned phone calls along the way.
These tools are all simple to pull together and only one of them has to be updated for every project. The hope is that a little bit of effort up front, can help manage expectations and save a lot of time over the life of the project.
Have any other tips you’ve picked up along the way? Feel free to leave them in the comments section for others to benefit from!